It’s the experience, stupid.
I had one of those conversations yesterday that started in one place and then careened all over creation. The kind of conversation I pretty much live for. During the course of it I was asked about why some writers on film were asking about whether or not VOD was going to be the death of the film festival.
My stab at an answer was this: those writers are focused on film as a product, while the value of a festival lies in the event as an experience.
The former is an easy position to hold, given how consumer-centric the film industry, and indeed our whole culture is. Yet the monetary value of any cultural product is completely dependent on the subjective experience of the audience.
Festivals, when viewed through a reptilian lens, are ineffcient and stupid. Why only so many screenings? Why make all these people travel somewhere in a day and age when they can just screen something at home?
Because a film festival is more than just a container for watching movies. The same way that a music festival is more than just a flesh & blood iTunes interface. Even a half-way decent festival is an additive, social experience that reorients the participant out of their day to day life and opens them up to new voices.
The difference between the mood of a festival, where you’re open to possibilities and hopefully a little more forgiving of rough edges, is a hell of a lot different from summoning up a shopping list of entertainment.